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Acts 4:36-37

PRACTICING THE MINISTRY OF ENCOURAGEMENT

Intro: Ill. One of the great tragedies of our time is that there are so few kind people around. There are plenty of mean-spirited, hateful people, but there are very few who just take the time to be kind as a lifestyle. Yet, I believe that this is how every child of God ought to be! Let's be honest, many of us are opinionated, self-centered, rude and sometimes, just plain mean in our dealings with others. This ought not be! I believe that the Lord would have us to practice a ministry of encouragement as we pass through this world.

In these verses, we are introduced to a man named Joses. He is better known by the name Barnabas. When this man appeared on the scene in the early days of the church, he stepped out of obscurity doing good, and when he stepped off the stage a few years later, he exited doing good as well. In fact, the Bible's record of this man's life and ministry reveals him as a man who had a heart to do good to all those with whom he came into contact.

Tonight, I would like to take a quick look at the life of Barnabas, and share with you why he earned the name "Son of Consolation." By the way, this name is very special. The word son refers to those who revere God as their Father, and those who in lifestyle and character resemble Him. This word speaks of a son of God who demonstrates the characteristics of his Heavenly Father. The word for "consolation" comes from the same word that is translated "Comforter", and which refers to the Holy Ghost. It refers to one who comes alongside of another to offer help and encouragement. Apparently, Barnabas had earned this reputation among the Disciples of Christ.

For these few minutes that we have together, let's take some time to examine the life of this godly man and see why he carried this title. As we do, I want us to examine ourselves and see whether or not we too might be classified as encouragers this evening. Let's take a few minutes and examine this thought: Practicing The Ministry Of Encouragement.

I. AN ENCOURAGER REACHES OUT

(That is, he has an external ministry, a ministry to others)

A. Acts 9:26-27 An Encourager Espouses The Lonely - Ill. The glorious conversion of Saul of Tarsus. After Saul was converted, he tried to unite himself with the other disciples who were in Jerusalem, but out of fear and prejudice about his past, they were afraid to allow him into their group. However, Barnabas came to Saul's side and stood up for Him and told the others about this man's amazing conversion. He stood up for one who desperately needed a friend.

(Ill. There is still a need for this kind of ministry today! We need to make the effort and take the time to reach out to those around us who seem to be lonely or who have been rejected by others. This is especially true at church. We should do our best to make everyone who comes to this place feel as if they belong here and are accepted just as they are. Does this describe your life and practice? We ought to find ourselves actively engaged in this kind of activity. Look around you! There are plenty of lonely, outcast people. Find them and be a friend to someone who needs a friend. That is what Jesus did! It is what He expects of us.)

B. Acts 11:22-23 An Encourager Edifies Other Believers - When the church in Jerusalem heard that there was a new group of believers in Antioch, they sent Barnabas to them to help them along. The Bible tells us that when he arrived, he "exhorted" them. This means that he offered them encouragement! He was excited about what God was doing and how these new converts were serving the Lord and he did his best to encourage them to carry on the God.

(Ill. Again, there is a lesson here for us tonight. We ought to do everything in our power to encourage other believers to walk with the Lord. We need to praise others when they labor for Jesus and gently rebuke our brothers when they stray. Our duty to our fellow believer is to help them to grow in the Lord and to be an encouragement to them, Rom. 14:19, 1 Thes. 5:11.)

(Ill. There are 2 kinds of people in the church. One kind finds all the fault they can and they do their best to tear others down. Others, seek to build up their fellow believers and to help them to grow in the Lord. Which description best pictures you and your dealings with others?)

C. Acts 15:36-40 An Encourager Embraces The Discouraged -(Ill. The events of this story. Apparently, Paul, Barnabas and John Mark were together on a missionary journey. For some reason, John Mark left them and returned to Jerusalem, Acts 13:13. Now, Paul and Barnabas are ready to go out again and Barnabas wants to take John Mark along to give him a second chance. Paul disagrees and he and Barnabas part company. Paul takes Silas and goes out with him, while Barnabas takes John Mark and disappears from the biblical account. While Barnabas is never heard from again, his ministry to John Mark had far reaching consequences! Because Barnabas gave this discouraged and defeated young man a second chance, his life as a servant of God was salvaged. In fact, before Paul died in Rome, he requested that Mark be sent to him, 2 Tim. 4:11. Even more important is the fact that because Barnabas took the time to encourage a discouraged brother, Mark was used of the Lord to pen the Gospel of Mark which gives us an exciting account of the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ.)

(Ill. What a truth for you and me! How many times have we seen fellow believers fall by the wayside? Our natural tendency is to wash our hands of them and go on. God's plan, however, is far different! We are not to kick our brother when he is down, but we are to reach out to him in a spirit of love and humility and help him be restored to the place of fellowship and service. We are to display the grace of the Good Samaritan by stopping, binding up their wounds and by helping them to recover. Yet, we find it so much easier to gossip about them, to find fault with time and to hold their shortcomings against them for as long as we can. Aren't you glad that the Lord isn't a thing like us? Aren't you glad that He is the God of second chances, Jonah 3:1? Why can't we do the same for those around us? We can if we will be an encourager!)

I. An Encourager Reaches Out

II. AN ENCOURAGER REACHES UP

(That is, he has an eternal ministry, a ministry to God.)

A. Acts 4:36-37 An Encourager Enhances The Work Of God - The first impression we are given of Barnabas is that he is a man who gave of himself freely. He gave of his goods to see that the church and its work went on. He used the things at his disposal to enhance the work of the Lord.

(Ill. This describes how we ought to be as well. We ought to all strive to give of our time, our tithes and our talents so that the church can prosper and that the burden of ministry doesn't rest upon the shoulders of one or two. When we give of ourselves and our stuff as we should, others are then encouraged to do the same.)

B. Acts 11:23-26 An Encourager Exalts The Work Of God - When Barnabas had seen all that the Lord was doing in Antioch, he set out to find Paul and to share the news with him. Barnabas refused to keep the good blessings of God quiet!

(Ill. There is a need for this kind of attitude in the modern church. There are far too many who want to bad mouth the church and church folks. When things don't go as someone thinks they should, they will get mad and run the church down. They will threaten to withhold "their" tithes. God give us some people who will go out into the world and brag on what Jesus is doing! God give us some who will tell of the testimony service, of that good prayer meeting, of that soul being saved, of that backslider getting things right with God, etc. There are enough whiners and bellyachers, we need some who will exalt the work of God!)

(Ill. Beware that you are never guilty of badmouthing the church or the people of God. Just as sure as you do this in front of a lost person, you stand a good chance of condemning their soul to Hell! You might as well be the one who puts them there. If all they hear from you is how bad things are down at the House of God, then why should they want to go and be part of that mess. On the other hand, when we tell the lost how great things are. When we tell them that we have been meeting with the Lord, they will be curious and they will come to see what is going on at church. Determine in your heart that you will be an encourager, one who exalts the work of God.)

C. Acts 13:1-3 An Encourager Is Employed In The Work Of God - Barnabas was chosen by the Holy Ghost to be actively involved in the Lord's work. This decision changed the course of his life forever. From that moment on, every where Barnabas went, he was a servant of the Lord.

(Ill. The lesson for us is obvious! No matter where we go in this word, we are the servants of the Lord. Whether we are at home, at work, in town, on vacation, etc, we are God's servants and we are to live and act accordingly. When we do, we serve as an encouragement to others to do the same. When we serve the Lord with enthusiasm and zeal, we stand as an encouragement to others. Therefore, when it comes time to go to church and do your job for God, arrive early, arrive alert, arrive prepared and arrive excited and ready to serve God. Show people how much you enjoy what you are doing and if you don't enjoy it, either get right with God or get out of the way of those who do!)

D. Acts 12:25 An Encourager Executes The Work Of God - This verse tells us that Paul and Barnabas fulfilled their ministry. That is, they stayed with the work until the work was finished. As such, they stood as encouragement to those around them!

(Ill. If you want you life to be an encouragement to those who watch you serving the Lord, then never leave a job unfinished. Be faithful to the task God has called you to and stick by God until He calls you to a new job, or until He calls you home! There is no room for quitting in the work of the Lord. It is an encouragement to me to see people sticking with the Lord through all the times of their life. It is a blessing and gives me a deeper desire to press on as well!)

I. An Encourager Reaches Out

II. An Encourager Reaches Up

III. AN ENCOURAGER REACHES IN

(That is, he has an internal ministry, a ministry to self. It is from this ministry to his own spiritual needs that the encourager is able to demonstrate the reality of Jesus Christ to those around him. While one's personal ministry cannot be seen by others, the evidence of is plain for all to behold. This was true in the life of Barnabas and it will be true in your life and mine as well.)

A. Acts 11:24 An Encourager Exemplifies Christ - This verse indicates that Barnabas was a genuine man of God. He possessed all the characteristics that marked him as being sold out and on fire for the Lord. His life served as an encouragement to holiness by being holy and blameless.

(Ill. Our lives should stand as a encouragement to lead others deeper into their walk with the Lord. We do this by getting ourselves as close to God as can. When others see the Lord working in and through our lives, they will be challenged and encouraged to seek the Lord for themselves and to become more like Him.)

(How does one go about getting close to the Lord? Hard word! The only way this is possible is for the believer to immerse himself in the word, spend time in prayer and to turn his back on the world. Is it possible? Yes! It is easy? No! Is it worth it? Yes! God's promise to us is that when we strive to get closer to Him, He will come closer to us - James 4:8.)

B. Acts 13:49-52 An Encourager Exhibits Joy In Trials - Barnabas, along with Paul, was preaching the Word of God and as a result, persecution arose against them and they were forced to leave town. Instead of being discouraged and quitting as many others would have done, they shook the dust from their feet and went on their way rejoicing. That stands as an encouragement to others who are going through battles in life!

(Ill. We show the true depth of our faith when we are in the valley! We show how real our faith in God is when by how we react to difficulty and hardship. We should always try to react to adversity by expressing joy and faith in the Lord, Ill. Job 1:20-21. When we do, we will tend to be an encouragement to those around us. Our faith and joy will help them when they too face their dark day. However, many of us like to wallow in self-pity and in the pity of others. We like it when people are sad that we are sad. We like it when we hurt if others can hurt too. This is a wrong spirit and does not encourage others in the Lord. Let us learn to exhibit joy in trials and thereby be an encourager to those around us!)

Conc: I look at Barnabas a realize just how far I have to go to reach his level. How about you? Wouldn't you like for your life to remembered as that of an encourager? If so, then it will require that you learn to rethink the priorities of your life. God is going to have to come first. Others will have to come second and you will have to come last, if at all. Where is the fun in that, you may ask? The fun lies in the truth that when we make the changes necessary to become an encourager, God will be glorified, others will be edified and we will be rewarded when we arrive home in glory. Are you and encourager?

Sermon By Alan Carr




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